Eastern Ladakh row: 7th round of Corps Commander talks likely on Oct 12

Army convoy making their way uphill towards Ladakh via Sonamarg in June. File Photo/GK

The seventh round of Corps Commander-level talks between armies of India and China is expected to be held on October 12 with a specific agenda of firming up a roadmap for disengagement of troops from the friction points in eastern Ladakh, people familiar with the developments said on Sunday.

At the talks, the two ides are also expected to look into further steps to maintain stability on the ground and avoid any action that may trigger fresh tension in the region where troops from both sides will be facing difficult conditions in the next four months due to harsh winters, they said.

Following the last round of military talks on September 21, the two sides announced a slew of decisions including not to send more troops to the frontline, refrain from unilaterally changing the situation on the ground and avoid taking any actions that may further complicate matters.

The military talks were held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) conclave.

The pact included measures like quick disengagement of troops, avoiding action that could escalate tensions, adherence to all agreements and protocols on border management and steps to restore peace along the LAC.

Days after the military talks, the two sides held diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on border affairs, but no concrete outcome emerged from the negotiation on September 30.

After the diplomatic talks, the MEA said it was agreed that the next round of the meeting of senior commanders should be held at an early date so that both sides can work towards early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC in accordance with the existing bilateral agreement and protocols.

Interestingly, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Naveen Srivastava, who has been leading the Indian side at the WMCC talks, also attended the military talks on September 21 for the first time.

Government sources said there is a possibility that he may be part of the Indian delegation at the seventh round of the Corps Commander talks.

The Indian delegation at the talks is likely to be headed by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps of the Indian Army.

It will be Lt Gen Singh’s last round of talks with the Chinese military as he will take charge as head of the prestigious Indian Military Academy around October 15.

Lt Gen PGK Menon, who will succeed Lt Gen Singh at the 14 Corps, is also likely to be part of the Indian team at the seventh round of military talks.

The situation in eastern Ladakh further deteriorated following at least three attempts by the Chinese military to “intimidate” Indian troops along the northern and southern bank of Pangong lake area between August 29 and September 8 where even shots were fired in the air for the first time at the LAC in 45 years.

As the tensions escalated further, the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks in Moscow on September 10 where they reached on the five-point agreement to defuse the situation in eastern Ladakh.

The agreement was the basis for the sixth round of Corps commander-level talks. In the last three months, the Indian Army rushed tanks, heavy weaponry, ammunition, fuel, food and essential winter supplies into various treacherous and high-altitude areas of the region to maintain combat readiness through the harsh winter of around four months beginning mid-October.